A short review of A Short History of the Tractor in Ukrainian

So, pretty much the quickest I’ve ever read a novel.  From cover to cover in just over a week, mostly down the English Library in Düsseldorf Altstadt, but also:

  • On the 701 heading into the city centre
  • Starbucks and platform 14 at the Hauptbahnhof
  • The S6 to Essen

So, my thoughts are thus.

An excellent book, and very original story.  I “got” the book, because I remember the “passport-hunter” ex-Soviet and post-Soviet women from my year abroad in Voronezh 1991-1992.  I also know a reasonable amount of East European history.  What I loved were:

  • Laughing out loud during the first two chapters and the ridiculous situation
  • Having damp eyes as the dark humour just became dark, no humour
  • The realism of the materialist passport-hunter
  • The question of who is the baddie, who is the goodie?  It became less clear-cut as I read each chapter
    • Passport-hunter just wanted a decent life for herself and her son
    • Father was desperate for someone to keep him warm in bed, bring him a cup of tea in the winter of his life.  Why should his two daughters get his inheritance?
  • The courtroom dramas… “under duress”
  • The happy ending.  Not quite, “They all lived happily ever after,” but on the whole a pretty win-win situation.

I am sorely tempted to read more by this author.


Never mind the ice bucket challenge

I’m so relieved that the silly season (the weeks in the summer when there’s no substantial news to report) gimmick, the Ice Bucket Challenge, seems to have died a death.  If I want to give to charity, I’ll do it in an understated way, eg donating when I get a poppy for Remembrance Day.

Anyway, as a bookworm I prefer the Nice Book Challenge.  What are the top ten books that have marked your life?  Here are mine below.

1. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, by Marina Lewycka (lots of reasons, but mainly reminds me of my year abroad, and a good mix of bathos and dark humour).

2. Look Who’s Back, by Timur Vermes (a book that made me laugh out loud on the train to Hannover this June, excellent German satire about Hitler coming back to Berlin, ground-breaking and taboo-breaking book).

3. 1984, by George Orwell. Probably the only novel I’ve ever read twice. Gripping from start to finish, and very gritty. Plenty of dark, no humour.

4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon. Again, more dark than humour. Probably the first fiction book I BOUGHT and could not put down. I even went to bed late to read just one more chapter and then another. A really original book, giving me an insight into Asperger syndrome, so much so, that I even bought a few books by Lorna Wing and Tony Atwood.

5. Gulag Archipelago, by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. Gripping start. Bit stodgy in the middle, but gripping end. Quite a long book.

6. Pikovaya dama (Queen of Spades), by Alexandr Pushkin. It didn’t change my life per se, but I loved the book and other A-level texts, that it made me want to study Russian at university, and the rest is history…

7. Job-Hunting and Career Change for Dummies All-in-One. This is THE bible for job-hunters. It helped me boost my CV immensely, and I’ve recommended it to lots of friends.

8. The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. Really fascinating book on leadership and organisational skills. One of the books where other people have read it, too, leading to some very animated conversations.

9, Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps: How We’re Different and What to Do, by Barbara and Allan Pease. It’s probably not changed my life, but it’s given me a better insight into the psychology of the genders, and it’s been a great “ah, so that’s why my husband/boyfriend/wife/girlfriend does that” book.

10. Business Analysis, by Don Yeates, et al. In as much as it’s marked my life, it was a good book for career reasons and enabled me to move onwards and upwards in job and lifestyle.